A new school year began recently for students in the Franklin County Public Schools system. With it comes a new policy from The State Journal.
Shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., that saw 20 first-graders and six adults killed, Franklin County Superintendent Chrissy Jones outlined a new practice where students would henceforth be identified for news outlets by their first name and last initial only.
Because the change in practice occurred in the midst of a school year, the newspaper decided to publish photos and stories identifying children in this manner.
Now, with the start of a new school term, we will no longer do so.
This practice only applies to students in pre-school through third grade, those covered by the school district’s directive.
As editor, I notified Jones and board members Doug Crowe, Michelle New, William
Cofield, Jennifer Grisham-Brown and BeLinda Henson of our intentions in a letter dated May 24.
This is not a decision we make lightly, nor happily. We believe the board’s practice, which was enacted for safety reasons, means fewer students will receive the recognition they deserve.
We believe the practice has not been enforced fairly — we do not believe that is even possible. At school plays, pageants, concerts, sporting events, etc., students are of course identified — by first and last name — and nearly everyone in attendance has a cell phone with a camera.
Student achievement is often recognized at school board meetings, again with both first and last name.
In addition, proud parents often post photos and names on Facebook pages.
The school system already had a policy in place that was working well. Any parent who did not want his or her child photographed or mentioned in the newspaper simply had to inform the school. Reporters and photographers would check this list in the school office.
Newspapers, including The State Journal, have always strongly believed in such issues as public protection and school safety. For example, newspapers do not publish the names of victims of certain crimes.
No one is more interested in school safety than The State Journal. But this new practice does little to enhance school safety. It may be a practice implemented with good intentions, but it does not protect students.
We are a newspaper that practices community journalism. We work every day to inform readers of what is happening in Frankfort and Franklin County. So it bothers us that this practice forces us to report less news.
We reach this decision knowing as journalists it is the right decision for our profession, and more importantly, for our readers.
The State Journal